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Hardback Non-Fiction to Look Forward to in 2021 (January-April)

2021 is turning out to be a fantastic year… for publishing. In this series of blog posts, we want to highlight the titles we at The Portobello Bookshop are most excited about this year. Starting off with some of the best new hardback fiction coming in 2021, this list features well-known authors as well as debuts and books you may not have heard of yet but you should definitely check out.

Just a note that because this is a list of forthcoming titles, some purchases will be pre-orders and you will receive your books as they are published over the coming months.

Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape by Cal Flyn

Published: 21-01-2021
Conservation of wildlife and habitats - Hardback
£16.99

This is a book about abandoned places – ghost towns and exclusion zones, no man’s lands and fortress islands – and about what happens when nature is allowed to reclaim its place.

In Chernobyl, following the nuclear disaster, only a handful of people returned to their dangerously irradiated homes. On an uninhabited Scottish island, feral cattle live entirely wild. In Detroit, once America’s fourth-largest city, entire streets of houses are falling in on themselves, looters slipping through otherwise silent neighbourhoods.

This book explores the extraordinary places where humans no longer live – or survive in tiny, precarious numbers – to give us a glimpse of what happens when mankind’s impact on nature is forced to stop.

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Swim in a Pond in the Rain, A: From the Man Booker Prize-winning, New York Times-bestselling author of Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Published: 12-01-2021
Creative writing and creative writing guides - Hardback
£16.99

For the last twenty years, George Saunders has been teaching a class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University.

In A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, he shares a version of that class with us, offering some of what he and his students have discovered together over the years. Paired with iconic short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, the seven essays in this book are intended for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it is more relevant than ever in these turbulent times.

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Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? by Catherine Grant, Linda Nochlin

Published: 14-01-2021
Theory of art - Hardback
£9.99

Linda Nochlin’s seminal essay on women artists is widely acknowledged as the first real attempt at a feminist history of art. Nochlin refused to handle the question of why there had been no ‘great women artists’ on its own corrupted terms. Instead, she dismantled the very concept of ‘greatness’, unravelling the basic assumptions that had centred a male-coded ‘genius’ in the study of art. In this stand-alone anniversary edition, Nochlin’s essay is published alongside its reappraisal, ‘Thirty Years After’.

Written in an era of thriving feminist theory, as well as queer theory, race and postcolonial studies, ‘Thirty Years After’ is a striking reflection on the emergence of a whole new canon. With reference to Joan Mitchell, Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman and many more, Nochlin diagnoses the state of women in art with unmatched precision and verve.

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Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male Power by Ijeoma Oluo

Published: 21-01-2021
Mixed heritage / mixed race groups or people - Hardback
£16.99

What happens to a country that tells generation after generation of white men that they deserve power? What happens when success is defined by status over women and people of colour, instead of actual accomplishments? Through the last 150 years of American history – from the post-Reconstruction South and the mythic stories of cowboys to the present-day controversy over NFL protests and the backlash against the rise of women in politics – Ijeoma Oluo exposes the devastating consequences of white male supremacy on women, people of colour, and white men themselves. As provocative as it is essential, Mediocre investigates the real costs of white male power in order to imagine a new white male identity, one free from racism and sexism.
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Thin Places by Kerri ni Dochartaigh

Published: 28-01-2021
Memoirs - Hardback
£14.99

Kerri ni Dochartaigh was born in Derry, on the border of the North and South of Ireland, at the very height of the Troubles. She was brought up on a council estate on the wrong side of town. But for her family, and many others, there was no right side.

In Thin Places, a mixture of memoir, history and nature writing, Kerri explores how nature kept her sane and helped her heal, how violence and poverty are never more than a stone’s throw from beauty and hope, and how we are, once again, allowing our borders to become hard, and terror to creep back in.

Kerri asks us to reclaim our landscape through language and study, and remember that the land we fight over is much more than lines on a map. It will always be ours but, at the same time, it never really was.

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Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain by Sathnam Sanghera

Published: 28-01-2021
Colonialism and imperialism - Hardback
£18.99

In his brilliantly illuminating new book, Sathnam Sanghera demonstrates how so much of what we consider to be modern Britain is actually rooted in our imperial past. In prose that is at once clear-eyed and full of acerbic wit, Sanghera shows how our past is felt everywhere: from how we live to how we think, from the foundation of the NHS to the nature of our racism, from our distrust of intellectuals in public life to the exceptionalism that imbued the campaign for Brexit and the government’s early response to the Covid crisis. And yet, empire is a subject weirdly hidden from view.
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Brown Baby: A Memoir of Race, Family and Home by Nikesh Shukla

Published: 04-02-2021
Child care and upbringing: advice for parents - Hardback
£16.99

How do you find hope and even joy in a world that is racist, sexist and facing a climate crisis? How do you prepare your children for it, but also fill them with all the boundlessness and eccentricity that they deserve and that life has to offer? In Brown Baby, Nikesh Shukla explores themes of racism, feminism, parenting and our shifting ideas of home. This memoir, by turns heart-wrenching, hilariously funny and intensely relatable, is dedicated to the author’s two young daughters, and serves as an act of remembrance to the grandmother they never had a chance to meet.

Through themes such as love, grief, food and fatherhood, Shukla shows how it’s possible to believe in hope.

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Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by Elizabeth Kolbert

Published: 04-03-2021
Environmental science, engineering and technology - Hardback
£18.99

The author of the international bestseller The Sixth Extinction returns to humanity’s transformative impact on the environment, now asking: after doing so much damage, can we change nature, this time to save it?
Elizabeth Kolbert has become one of the most important writers on the environment. Now, she investigates the immense challenges humanity faces as we scramble to reverse, in a matter of decades, the effects we’ve had on the atmosphere, the oceans, the world’s forests and rivers – on the very topography of the globe. In her trademark persuasive and darkly comic prose, Kolbert introduces a myriad of innovations that show ways to avert disaster or that may sometimes produce new disasters, ones that haven’t been, and perhaps cannot be, anticipated.
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Everybody by Olivia Laing

Published: 29-04-2021
Preorder - Hardback
£20.00

The body is a source of pleasure and of pain, at once hopelessly vulnerable and radiant with power. At a moment in which basic rights are once again imperilled, Olivia Laing conducts an ambitious investigation into the body and its discontents, using the life of the renegade psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich to chart a daring course through the long struggle for bodily freedom, from gay rights and sexual liberation to feminism and the civil rights movement. Drawing on her own experiences in protest and alternative medicine, and exploring from Weimar Berlin to the prisons of McCarthy-era America, she grapples with some of the most significant and complicated figures of the past century, among them Nina Simone, Christopher Isherwood, Andrea Dworkin, Sigmund Freud, Susan Sontag and Malcolm X.
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